Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Marvel Universe Grows as the FF Shrinks

I must have reread Fantastic Four 16 (July 1963) more often than any other issue, and now I think I know why. For me, this was the issue that really cemented the crowd-pleasing concept of what we would come to call the “Marvel universe.”
Two years into their run, the now-familiar and well-loved title characters were joined by another favorite superhero, the Astonishing Ant-Man, to oppose that prince among super villains, Dr. Doom. The Fantastic Four had already met and skirmished with the Hulk and Spider-Man, but this time, confronted by the peril of miniaturization, they called on Ant-Man for help.
Calling in the expert would have been a natural move in the real world, but was still a relatively rare one in comics, where — despite the existence of the Justice League and the World’s Finest teams — superheroes often seemed to pretend that other superheroes didn’t exist. In her own title, for example, Wonder Woman would fend off an alien invasion by herself, with never a thought for the heroes who might help.
With an eye on the insiderish fanboy thrill that crossovers gave readers, Stan Lee was also certainly aware that bringing newer characters into contact with the company’s most popular heroes would be a great way to provide them with wider exposure.
“And there is a lot to tell in this issue — from contacting Ant-Man, to discovering a hidden world, to helping the royal family which Doom has imprisoned to take back their throne,” comics historian Don Alsafi observed. “And yet, as we’ve come to expect, there are wonderful little details as well. For instance, before they embark on their micro-journey, Reed tracks down Ben at his girlfriend Alicia’s apartment to test out a new serum, one that he hopes will be instrumental in someday changing the Thing back to human, permanently.
"Meanwhile, Sue is grappling with the problem that while she can turn invisible, she can still be identified by creatures with a strong sense of smell, such as dogs, and so is seen experimenting with different kinds of perfumes in an effort to ‘deaden’ her own scent. Even Johnny gets a bit of attention when Pearla, the princess they save from Doom's clutches, sends a few flirtations his way before the FF leave their realm. Any hopes that this could be a potential love interest for the Torch are for naught, however, as Pearla’s next Marvel appearance would take 19 years to occur.”

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